Bryston 14B³ Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

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Bryston 14B³ Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

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Bryston is a Canadian AV company based in Ontario. The company was originally an electronic medical device manufacturer before becoming an audio component manufacturer. As such, Bryston understands the importance of implementing exceptionally high-quality parts in life-saving medical equipment, and the company now applies that philosophy to creating cost-no-object audio components. Bryston products are hand made in the Canadian facility, with no outsourcing and no shortcuts. New products are not introduced annually to artificially improve the lineup and drive sales; rather, Bryston introduces new models when they contain real advancements--which is what Bryston promises with its new Cubed amplifier line, consisting of the 28B³, 14B³, 7B³, 4B³, 3B³, and 2.5B³.

Reviewed here is the 14B³ ($10,795), the top-of-the-line stereo amplifier. The 14B³ is essentially two 7B³ mono amplifiers built into one chassis in a dual mono design (Bryston says that the two 7B³ amps have slightly higher combined power supply capacitance). At 600 watts per channel at eight ohms and 900 watts per channel at four ohms, the 14B³ is a true heavyweight. And I mean literally: weighing in at 91 pounds, with 19 inches of width and 18.4 inches of depth, the 14B³ feels like Thor's Hammer. Total harmonic distortion is less than or equal to 0.005 percent from 20 Hz to 20 kHz at full power. All voltage gain stages have regulated power supplies, while each channel has its own independent power supply. Power transformers for each channel store energy for maximum dynamic range.

Bryston's guiding principle in amplifier design is faithful reproduction of the recorded music by having the lowest distortion with minimal noise to achieve the best performance. In comparison with the previous SST2 product range, Bryston was able to significantly lower distortion at the input stage to 1/1000th of one percent, improve common mode noise rejection to reduce electro-magnetic interference, and boost the noise-rejection capabilities of radio-frequency interference while decreasing standby power consumption. Lastly, Bryston refined the line's faceplate, made of hefty aluminum that exudes quality and elevates the product's appearance.

All Bryston amplifier designs are based on Class AB output stage architecture, as opposed to Class A. Bryston is quick to point out the inherent benefits of this design--namely, improved linearity and lower distortion, without the massive heat and power consumption. Bryston carries over its Quad-Complimentary topology from the previous SST2 product line, effectively eliminating upper-end harmonic distortion, which resembles Class A amplifier performance without the drawbacks.

Another benefit of the new circuit design is the ease of preamplifier matching with selectable 6 dB of gain from 23 dB to 29 dB, to accommodate different preamplifier output levels.

Bryston takes pride in using the highest-grade components sourced locally while retaining long-term employees, many of which have been with the company for over 20 years. Before leaving the factory, all products receive a certificate signed by a technician, indicating a perfect score during 100 hours of burn-in and stress testing. To back up its quality claims, Bryston provides an unprecedented 20-year warranty on all analog products.

The 14B³ includes balanced and single-ended audio inputs. You won't find noisy mechanical fans on this beast, as it uses convection cooling with massive heat sinks, which are immediately visible upon opening the box. The amp is available in either black or silver (natural) anodized aluminum, with or without front handles. Rear handles are standard on all versions, which helps maneuver the unit in and out of your cabinet and acts as a safeguard to the amplifier's input and output connections.

The Hookup
I installed the 14B³ in my living room surround sound system, replacing my NAD M27 amplifier's right and left channels. Bryston also sent the Middle T floorstanding speakers to give the 14B³ something to play with. And I was lucky to have two additional visiting speaker products during my time with the Bryston 14B³: the Ohm 5000, and the Sonus faber Il Cremonese. My daily speaker system in this room consists of a 5.1 speaker system from Vienna Acoustics, from its now discontinued Schonberg line. Needless to say, I got a good idea how the Bryston amp works with a variety of speaker systems.

Other relevant components include an NAD M17 surround sound processor, the aforementioned NAD M27 multichannel amplifier for the center and rear channels, an Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player, and a MacBook Pro streaming TIDAL's HiFi CD-quality service over Chrome.

Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

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